INSIDE THE ASSEMBLY SPRING/SUMMER GATHERING!

It's been a few weeks since we had our Assembly Spring/Summer Gathering for the year so I thought I'd take you inside and show you what we got up to.

These Gatherings are pretty all consuming for me in the lead up - so much thought, preparation, promotion, sourcing and energy goes into putting this day together and I love it. I do. It flexes creative muscles in me that I want to build but make no mistake, it also takes a small army of helpers around me to make it happen. I am so grateful for all the people who were on my team for this Gathering - so many beautiful women who made it all come together - with their skills, expertise, encouragement and generosity. 

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We headed back to the gorgeous home of Erin and Jo (The Edible Flower) in Saintfield for this years Gathering and it is such a warm, generous space. It takes a special couple to have the courage and tenacity to be able to host 40 women for the day so effortlessly. They cleared out space for us, cooked delicious food for us, led a workshop, lit campfires and were generally amazing. 

Setting up and bringing a vision of table settings and flowers and backdrops is such an exciting part of this role for me and I was so lucky to have Kelly from Ciderpress Lane as my right hand woman to help with setting up. Kelly runs similar dinners and workshops through her awesome business Ciderpress Lane in Seattle, Washington and we connected over IG ages ago through mutual friends. It just so happened that she was in Ireland on vacation the same time as our Gathering was happening so I scooped her up and was so thrilled that we could finally meet in real life and she could come and be part of Assembly with us! 

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I also had the absolute pleasure of bringing in Lindsey from The Wildflower to make the table come alive with some gorgeous spring blooms. I cannot tell you how happy these flowers made me - they were the perfect peachy tones and really made the table look so special (you'll see them in situ later on down the post). Lindsey is such a dream to work with and totally got my ideas and the feel I wanted to create. If you ever need anything floral done, she's your girl.

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We were also so lucky to have Steph and Matt from This Old Home come and bring some of their stunning backdrops for different spaces around the Gathering. These guys have such style and warmth and their gorgeous wooden backdrops brought a really unique element to the different spaces around the property. The dressed wooden triangle finished off our dining space beautifully and the chevron backdrop we used to serve welcome cocktails from was something really special. Such a gorgeous fam they are (their beautiful boy Tom got in on the action while we set up) with such creative know-how.

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After everyone arrived and had a seasonal cocktail and some canapes we broke up into workshops - one half of the group heading out to meet with Jo and learn about seasonal gardening, growing your own veg and getting a chance to pot some plants to take home. Erin and Jo have a large vegetable garden where they grow much of the food they cook and cater with so Jo took us on a tour. I don't know anyone more enthusiastic about soil, crop rotation and the ultimate joy of growing your own than Jo. She is utterly joyfully contagious and a wealth of info. They are going to be running some twilight gardening sessions (with yummy food included) on their property during July/August so if learning more about this stuff is your thing you should get along! 

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While one group got their hands dirty, the other half of the group headed over to the cow byre to meet up with Tonya from Infinity Farm. Tonya is an urban beekeeper and came along to take a workshop on making beeswax products. Everyone had a chance to make some scented beeswax lipbalm and an eco-friendly beeswax wrap (alternative to cling film/tinfoil) to take home! The smells coming from the workshop space were heavenly as everyone had a go at blending essential oils into their beeswax lipbalms. 

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Then to feast! And feast we did. The Edible Flower team put on such a spread of food for us, I was satisfyingly bursting at the seams at the end of the night. Soup, scones, homemade sourdough pizza made in their brand new wood-fired pizza oven with local, seasonal toppings and the most incredible rhubarb pavlova to finish. 

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Denby provided us with sets of plates from their new Studio Blue collection and they looked beautiful on the table with the optical white stonewashed linen tablecloths and indigo linen napkins provided by the wonderful LinenMe. It's all of these small details that bring a table together, don't you think?

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Our amazing designer Nat from  Keady Row  did up our menu/manifesto cards for each person in our new Assembly branding.

Our amazing designer Nat from Keady Row did up our menu/manifesto cards for each person in our new Assembly branding.

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Everyone was also treated to a little gift from two amazing companies. Some organic sunscreen from Green People and a beautiful selection of candles and tealights from The Botanical Candle Company (which were opened with audible gasps at how beautiful they were). The candle scents were 'Greenhouse' and 'Cutting Garden' which just felt so perfect given our seasonal workshops. Big huge love and thanks to Green People and The Botanical Candle Co. for being so generous with their products. 

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How gorgeous are these mamas with their fresh new babies? Assembly is always accommodating of new babies (and you'll never be short of someone to hold your baby while you eat)!

And so this is where the magic happens; around the table. Conversations deepen, connections are made as we relish in the simple pleasure of eating and drinking together. It's always my favourite time to take stock - to look around the room at people getting to know each other, laughing and making space for their own nourishment. Such a joy.

After dinner we retreated to the campfire and had warm milky chai tea before we said our goodbyes and packed down.

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Thank you so much to everyone who made our Spring/Summer Gathering such a treat. To those who came, threw themselves into workshops and made new connections, to our incredible hosts and the team of women who brought it all together. A special final thank you again to our amazing photographer Rachel from Martha & Pine Photography. She captured the day so beautifully and these images are all her amazing work. She is a magician.

If you want to be part of what Assembly is all about - making space to reflect, learn, gather and grow into our creative selves - then you might want to think about joining our Members Community. This is a warm, inclusive group of women from the North and South of Ireland who want to invest in the community aspect of Assembly on a regular basis. Members get discounts on tickets to all Assembly events, get together at members only meet ups, have access to live workshops in our buzzing private facebook group and have the opportunity to take part in special projects together that empower women in need. 

If that sounds like something you'd like to be part of, come join us! Doors are only open for a little while so click here to join today! 

SUSTAINABLE HOME OFFICE MAKEOVER

In this last year my work hours have upped a little bit. My job at Freedom Acts remains the same but my other work with writing, speaking and Assembly has grown in leaps and bounds and required more time of me (and by more time, I mean more juggling). I often finding myself hunched over the laptop on the sofa, stealing margins in the day to meet deadlines or keep people in the loop. Dave also works from home most of the week so he has claimed one of our attic extension rooms as his office. 

Up until recently, the office has existed as a ginormous old desk, a chair and a HEAP of stuff lying about the floor. You know the scene.  It pained me to go up there to work because it was such a mess and my brain is not good with clutter so I thought it was high-time that we put some effort into creating an office space that we could really organise, that we both wanted to work in and could close the door to at the end of the day. 

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As with most things in our house -  a lot of thought goes into what we buy like, a) do we actually really need it? and b) how we can buy what we need without a big impact on the environment and with the reassurance that who we buy from has a healthy supply chain behind it. 

The office space needed sorting in order for us to really keep on top of our work so first up was finding some good storage solutions. We aren't fans of really big cupboards or lots of shelving in our rooms because it often means you end up just collecting more stuff to put into or onto them because the space is there. Bulky furniture tends to close in a room and we wanted to keep things light. We needed something for basic work stuff (paperwork, stationary etc) and something that would hold quantities of smaller cycling bits that Dave gives out to students when he goes into schools (bells, high-vis stuff etc). 

I had been checking around for sustainable options and something a bit different and quickly came across Tikamoon who supply sustainable furniture at really fair prices. I was able to email them about their products to find out more and they sent me through this perfect metal 9-drawer piece to store all our stuff. It's not too big, has good deep drawers and has a really slick industrial vibe with the metal body and weathered wooden top that I thought would go really well in our attic space with the beams and velux windows etc. 

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You know I do my research, so I was super impressed that Tikamoon products are all designed by the brand, they are manufactured in cooperation with local businesses in a sustainable way with certified wood and pretty much everything comes already assembled. WINNER. They are super transparent about their sourcing and supply chain and their designs are impeccable with pieces that will last a lifetime. 

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To go with the industrial feel, we got the LERBERG/LINNMON desk from IKEA. It has a metal base that goes nicely with the drawers and we chose the simple white desktop which is a strong and lightweight material with a frame in wood, particleboard or fibreboard and a recycled paper filling. IKEA are so innovative and impressive in their sustainability commitments that when the budget is tight, I am happy to buy from them.

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We kept our ercol chair and added in the all important plants and lamps and then decided to add some warmth by bringing in wicker/bamboo bits and pieces (including the bamboo light fixture - also from IKEA - which took myself and my neighbour a full afternoon to put up!). Next up was finding a soft rug to go under the desk. 

The wonderful team at Sukhi offered to send over one of their amazing Irmak hemp rugs, made by artisans in Turkey. They use 100% hemp (a really sustainable material) and this rug is unbelievably soft underfoot and a really high standard of quality. Sukhi are such an incredible company that really value keeping traditional craftsmanship alive and supporting their artisans with opportunities to work in ways that suit their lifestyle. They don't supply copy-cat rugs that you might see on the high street or in big box homeware stores - these rugs are the real deal - coming directly from the country they are made in to you with really fair and competitive pricing as well. You'll remember we have one of their felt ball rugs in our bedroom and it is such high quality. 

I had no idea how lovely a hemp rug would be but it is such a beautiful soft textile to have in the home. The more I learn about its sustainability as a natural fabric, the more I am sold on buying products that use it. The rug I was sent has a gorgeous woven, patchwork feel to it that is really earthy and neutral enough that even if we change up other parts of the room, it will still fit right in. 

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There is so much to love about Sukhi. They are affordable, you can customise your rug and you are buying directly from the people making the rugs so it cuts out all the middle man stuff that can take away from the makers. Sukhi even name the rugs after the people that make them. It feels like such a small but important gesture for a business to make in a world of nameless manufacturing. More and more I feel compelled to make sure that everything that comes into our home has purpose and aligns with our values and Sukhi goes above and beyond to make those kinds of choices easier. I would really urge you to check out all of their range and see for yourself. 

I'm grateful we have this space sorted now - it's a much more inspiring space to get stuff done in and it's tucked away at the top of the house so it even means a considerable amount of peace and quiet from the buzz of busy family life below. I feel like when you spend such a significant amount of time investing in your job, it makes sense to do it in a space that feels comfortable and peaceful, right?

As always, it's a real privilege and pleasure to be able to work with brands that align with my values and that are doing great things in the world of sustainable living. Big thanks to Tikamoon for sending me the awesome drawers and to Sukhi for the wonderful rug. If you want to hear any more about them, please ask away!

 

Mel WigginsComment
THE SOCIAL MEDIA RAT RACE & THE POWER WE GIVE AWAY

It’s a bit of a beast, this Internet age isn’t it? The endless opportunities at our fingertips. I get so excited by it; full of ideas, about the innovation and connection potential it holds.

But it’s also exhausting, right? I can’t be the only one that finds it exhausting. I’ve sat on this blog post for approximately three months because I find the social media exhausting and I kept coming back to this piece with more to say.

I counted recently that there are no less than 15 ways that people can contact or get a hold of me online – through DM’s, tweets, emails, whatsapp, comments etc. That feels kinda crazy and a long way from waiting on letters arriving from penpals or going to the cupboard under the stairs to ring the home phone of a school mate and having to go through small talk with their mum before you got passed the phone.

A couple of months ago I had a bit of a tough conversation with a friend. She shared how she had noticed that I had responded to lots of comments on one of my Instagram posts but had waited days for a reply to her text message about lunch. That stung. It stung because it was true and pretty hard to face. A message from a dearly loved friend had got lost in the frenzy of engagement online.  

And so here is where it can turn into a bit of a beast.  How can we ever keep up with this relentless style of communication? How can we be available to so many people in this many ways and expect to have healthy relationships and boundaries? I continue to ask this of myself as I gradually loosen my grip on social media.

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I want to write about this sensitively, because I am aware that how people use social media is a touchy one. We all use it or consume it for different reasons. Some people use it to promote their services, businesses and some simply to keep in touch or maybe even to feel less alone in a relentless day of stay at home parenting. Maybe a mix of all of those things. I’m not the internet police, but I do wonder if there might be room for a conversation, particularly amongst women of the blogging/’influencer’ world, about how the constant rat race of posting, polling and sharing might be burning people out and moving them away from being tuned into their own decision making and desires at a pretty fast rate.

My thinking around it these days is this: if we are continually putting out content on our social media, IG, stories, chats, blog, youtube or wherever else we like – we are inviting people to engage; which can be wonderful and supportive and will maybe open doors to meeting new people, building important business connections etc. but the offshoot to that; the payment for those things is that when we invite people to engage, we are most likely going to feel a need to respond to that engagement. After all, it is social media.

Here’s what I’m seeing happening with bloggers and those trying to build a following: we post something - we invite engagement, and then we are burnt out by having to keep up with that engagement which we now feel chained to so we can keep algorithms in our favour and likes rolling in and new followers clicking through and for what? What is the ultimate goal here? Is this really the culture we are striving for? One where we miss the messages of our friends because we need to post at certain high traffic time because the algorithm is the boss of our lives? Doesn’t it seem a bit like we are pushing or striving a bit too much? And to what end? What is the holy grail of all this posting and engagement? How do we really measure what impact our voices, our sharing, our engagement has? Surely it’s human connection?

Rob Bell did an incredible podcast series that has been so timely for me to listen to as I have been putting together (and avoiding publishing) this post. In it he talks about this film maker who made a movie that was met with less than favourable box office stats. He said about his film “our metric for success is off. There are no reliable statistics for hearts opened or wounds healed”. He had made work that he loved. He knew it was good. He felt it in his bones so he knew that statistics or likes were never going to be a true measure of its impact. 

You see, there are so many voices, images, people trying to be heard across so many platforms and I think it would be fair to say that we all hoping to be seen in some way; even if your interaction with social media is a fairly relaxed one.

And wanting to share or to be seen/heard isn’t a bad thing, absolutely not. It’s a human thing – the inner wiring we all have to connect and share. “Hey, look at this picture of how cute my kid is in the snow!” “I really love these shoes, aren’t they awesome?” "This video is so funny, I just had to share!" “This issue is so awful, will you care about it with me?” We are all searching for that ‘me too’ moment - to feel a bit more understood and known.

Lately though I’ve been finding that social media has become so noisy, and I wonder how much of that noise is actually adding value to our lives; to my life. I wonder if a lot of what is being put out there is more about the need to keep up with regular relevant posting and the fear of being forgotten about rather than wanting to add value; to really connect.

I’m also intrigued about how we talk when we haven’t been present online as much as usual. I observe amazing women (especially) come onto instagram stories and apologise for not being ‘around’ because they have been busy with sick kids/work/general life etc. I don’t think we say it because we feel so important that we need to explain our absence, but there is an underlying concern that we need to justify living our life outside of social media. How about we make a pact of no more apologising to people behind screens for not being on your screen. It’s all backwards and no one – whether you have 20 or 20 000 followers, should ever apologise for having a life. I think women could do with apologising less for unnecessary things in general too.

It’s amazing to have a community of people to connect with online, but you also don’t owe anyone anything – you know that right? You don’t owe anyone on the internet an update on your day, or really even a response to what you’ve shared. I think the more we give ourselves permission to strive less with our online lives, the more we can give that permission to others and slow this train down a little. There is no online finish line to hustle towards; no magic amount of followers to gain before life becomes easy and we are exempt from the mundane. That day isn’t coming and we need to stop apologising for being present in other areas of our lives. Don’t let the pace of others dictate your pace.  

That isn’t to say that we should share less – that’s where I want to be clear.  The internet and social media has been great for women in particular. Mothers who feel less alone because of online communities they have formed while the demands of parenting could keep them isolated; women in business who can promote their work and ideas on their own terms. It’s incredible and worth celebrating for that. What women have to say need to be heard – their space needs to be taken up. That’s not what this is about…

What I’m figuring out is that I only want to bring something to the table that adds value, not noise. It won’t add value for everyone (How remarkable! Not everyone is going to like me or what I bring to the table!), but I want to be proud of what I share, to feel good about it for myself, knowing that it aligns to my values and is either likely to serve someone else or lead to some sort of real-life moment of connection. That’s what I’m really after. That’s the legacy of social media usage I want to have.

Here’s why I think we should claim back our social media power:

1)  We are not supposed to be able to be all things in all places. We have limitations and they are healthy and important and actually freeing. Listen to your mind, your inner voice, your body. Are you feeling pressured, rushed, overwhelmed, left behind by this narrative that you should be doing/sharing more online? Your mind and body may be telling you that this isn’t how it’s supposed to be. Listen to it carefully.

2)  Taking your time and adding value means that you can carve out a unique space for yourself online; one that feels like it has purpose and intention and actually attracts or serves the people you need it to, particularly if you are a business owner or you offer services. Creativity is easily clouded by the idea of having to do lots of things in order to be seen and it often leads to doing nothing at all. Do something well; be intent on becoming an expert or a go-to person on something that you really love or feel passionately about. Give that your focus and watch your creativity flourish.

3)  We could all do with being a little less ‘influenced’. I wonder how many of us realise how much we have become consumers of other peoples ideas, likes, taste and style instead of really getting to know ourselves or being realistic about our own lives. What might you need to unfollow or unsubscribe from to be able to be unstuck from other people’s version of enough or of happiness? (for me, it was unfollowing a lot of beautiful but out-of-my-price-range children’s clothing accounts – heaven help us all - I cannot afford to buy cashmere onesies that will forever be stained orange by a toddler who is very wilful about her orange peeling autonomy). What do you need to do to protect this space for yourself?

4)  Finally – I’ve been realising just how much social media is muting our connection to our own true desires. I am actually starting to think that the poll feature on Instagram/Facebook is probably the work of the patriarchy. Countless times I have seen women use this poll feature to ask the opinions of perfect strangers on everything from what kind make up look they should do, what they should talk about on stories, what kind of blog posts they should write and what they should wear. No way. Women did not die fighting for us to get the vote so you could be ruled by other peoples opinions on an instagram poll. Asking opinions for things like style, writing and sharing ideas should NEVER come from anyone else but you. Nobody. For years women have been told that they need to seek advice and counsel outside of themselves, moving them away from their own inner wisdom and desires and it’s just not right. Step away from the poll feature ladies. Write what YOU want to write (your people are out there – the people who love what you write and want to connect with your ideas). Wear what YOU want to wear. Create content that YOU are proud of.

Let's claim back our power and resolve to add value. Stick it to the man and stick it to the poll feature.

Maybe that would have been a snappier title?

THREE THINGS TO CONSIDER IF YOU WANT TO GET SERIOUS ABOUT ETHICAL FASHION

It's Fashion Revolution Week - five years on from the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh where over 1000 people lost their lives because of health and safety negligence when a garment factory - making clothes for brands that you and I buy from - collapsed. 

I'm so glad to see ethical fashion become a more mainstream conversation every year and I'm so grateful for trailblazers in the fashion, labour and environmental industries that are demanding, expecting and creating change. I am a proud ethical fashion advocate - it's something that I've worked hard to understand, read up on and be intentional about. Slowly, over the last 6 years, my fashion habits have changed and I feel connected to and part of this movement.

There are so many amazing articles and books that are available for those just starting out on the journey that are hungry for more information to change their mindset and habits (my personal recommendation would be to read any of Safia Minneys books - Slave to Fashion or Slow Fashion are my two favourites) but here are some issues I think we need to dig deeper into if we want to move past the superficial and get serious about ethical fashion:

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1)  HOW MUCH WEAR YOU'LL GET OUT OF A GARMENT - EVEN IF IT'S ETHICALLY MADE.

It’s awesome buying from ethical fashion companies – we need to support the amazing makers and workers that are innovating and changing the industry. What I think will make a more significant impact on the industry is if we all try to slow things down a bit – to gently pull the brakes on our consumerism. Even the most ethically made clothing can find its way to the back of our wardrobes and end up useless and in the pile of unwanted clothes. Systemic change in the industry comes from consumers looking at their frantic shopping habits and taking more time to consider what they really need and how much it will serve them.

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2)  WHAT FABRICS ARE MOST SUSTAINABLE

There are so many aspects of the fashion and garment production industry that we need to swot up on. Fabric is a big one because some are more sustainable and produced with less impact than others. Linen, for example is a plant-based fabric made from flax – I’ve loved linen for as long as I can remember because our local area is renown for its history in linen production and we learned about it from an early age in school. It can be grown and processed without chemicals and biodegrades quicker than most other fabrics. Cotton, if farmed organically can be good but takes a lot of water to produce. Hemp (stick with me) is a really great fabric – highly productive and easy to grow. It is really tolerant of pests so doesn’t need chemicals to cultivate. And there is so much innovation going on in fabric technology now making use of waste in so many amazing ways.  Soon we could be wearing fabric made from plastic bottles

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The Jazmenia top c/o Thought Clothing  - made from hemp and so perfect for Spring/Summer.

The Jazmenia top c/o Thought Clothing - made from hemp and so perfect for Spring/Summer.

3)    SUPPLY CHAIN POLICIES

If you really want to know #whomadeyourclothes you are going to have to do some digging. If this issue is important to you and you are committed to seeing and being the change, it’s so important that we don’t just pay lip service by depending on the knowledge of other people but that we do our own research. Target your favourite retailer, dig into their website to find out about their supply chain and environmental policies. If you can’t find anything substantial find out who runs their CSR, sourcing or supply chain department. Email them and ask to see their Modern Slavery Statement (Section 54 of the UK Modern Slavery Act requires commercial organisations that operate in the UK and have an annual turnover above £36m to produce a statement setting out the steps they are taking to address and prevent the risk of modern slavery in their operations and supply chains). You can even look up your favourite brand or group of brands on the Modern Slavery Registry and see if their statement is there. As a consumer, we are an integral cog in this wheel and we deserve to have this information available in order to understand and hold companies to account.

We have to leverage our consumer power. Ask for better transparency. Put the pressure on. Don’t settle for green labels on clothes that feign the idea of actually doing something positive – ask for more! Let us see your factories, hear the stories of your workers! We must ask them to tell us clearly and boldly how they're going to step up on these issues! There’s never been a more significant time to join the fashion revolution than now – the ground is swelling with activists and fashion lovers making their voices heard – calling for better treatment of people and the planet and change is swirling and rising. Come join us?

P.S. I'm going to be speaking about ethical fashion at a small event in Dublin this Friday night as part of Fashion Revolution week. If you're local and want to come along, let me know and I can hook you up with details!

OPERATING FROM A PLACE OF REST

I love to work hard. I love to bring ideas to life and to dream and scheme and do. 

This is a huge part of my make-up and personality. My brain is wired for action and ideas and this is a gift to me, I know that. I get huge fulfilment from the 'doing' but lately I've been on a path of learning the importance of rest; but maybe not rest as I once knew it.

Our culture isn't a big promoter of rest is it? We are often encouraged to hustle, to do more, have more, be more. Work harder, faster, stronger, longer - achieve achieve achieve.  On the other hand, rest can sometimes sounds like this elusive thing that is only ever achievable if you have no responsibilities or ambition. Jobs can be relentless. Parenting can be relentless. Is it really a case of either working hard and resting hard? I don't think either of these binary ways of thinking are helpful or healthy. There is burn-out waiting around the corner and rest happening from a place of burn out is not rest. It is recovery. I don't know about you but I don't want to recover from my life. 

Rest doesn't always sound very exciting either does it? Maybe for you it sounds like stopping or waiting or hesitation and maybe even for some of us - weakness. 

I've had a bit of an awakening to what rest looks like for me - a bit of a stirring of realisation.

Ethically made, toasty wool slippers c/o  Baabuk.  Couldn't be without them. (Use 'Melanie10' for discount if you want to grab yourself a pair)

Ethically made, toasty wool slippers c/o Baabuk. Couldn't be without them. (Use 'Melanie10' for discount if you want to grab yourself a pair)

I'm starting to wonder if rest is even something that you necessarily have to 'do' - you have a busy season in work or home life and then you take a period to rest. That feels too cyclic for me; too up and down. I have been on this very train a thousand times and it doesn't feel good any more. So now I wonder if rest is something that you can inhabit rather than do. I wonder if rest is actually a state that you can embrace and operate from rather than resort to. I wonder if it's less about stopping but is actually about adopting a different way of moving in the world that is less frantic, fearful and unnecessarily busy. Isn't that something we are all craving? 

Here's what operating from a place of rest might actually mean for us:

- saying no to things that aren't the most important so you can have space do what you love.

- only posting on social media when you have something of value to offer - not because you are afraid of being forgotten about. 

- not getting distracted by what other people are doing - being really clear about what your goals, your desires and your ambitions are.

- scheduling in time to do things that nourish you. 

- not apologising if you haven't gotten back to someone right away. There are no less than 15 ways that people can get hold of us these days - it's not OK to feel obliged to respond all of the time.

- doing things you love without thinking about how productive is it (this is one I struggle with a lot).

- not feeling guilty when you do nothing because your body is telling you not to.

- not feeling guilty when you are working or playing hard because you love what you are doing and you have the energy to do it.

- having more clarity about who you are, who is important to you, what you really love to do instead of moving from one thing, person, task to the next because of fear or obligation.

I recognise that the term 'rest' comes with some baggage and might seem idealistic - life has demands and comes with responsibility so this isn't about switching off from that but about having healthy boundaries, understanding how you operate best as a person and moving in the world from a place of self-support. 

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If you are picking up what I'm laying down here and this feels like something you are craving here are some questions/tips that you can begin to mull:

1) What are the pain-points in your life that leave you feeling frantic, fearful or frustrated? Identify three things and jot them down - the act of writing these down instead of having them in your head can be really powerful when it comes to remembering those triggers for you. Is it over-consuming social media that leaves you frantic? Is it a relationship that you know isn't good for your soul? Is it a responsibility in the home that you need to ask for help with?

2) What are the things that give you most fulfilment - when you feel most alive, energised, like yourself, at peace or supported? Again - write them down. How much space have you prioritised in your life for these things? Time is a choice and we have the power to fill our lives with the things that deserve to be there. 

3) What other intentional things can you filter into your life to feel like you are supporting yourself well? My friend Hannah talked beautifully on a podcast with Sas Petherick recently about how she supports herself through bouts of anxiety. It's a hugely important conversation and Hannah is so wise about how she views rest etc. Listen here for some of her tips.

As always, I'd really love to hear your thoughts on this. Have you found a way to operate from a place of rest in your life? Does it seem unachievable in our modern age? 

INTRODUCING... ASSEMBLY SESSIONS

If you've been around this space for a while you will know that for the last year and a half I have been organising a new venture: Assembly Gatherings. These gatherings have been really significant for me - a real medley of all the things I love to do (outside of my work and home life) - organise, bring ideas to life, connect amazing women, help make spaces beautiful, get creative and work with talented creative women. EAT.

Almost 100 women have been part of Assembly Gatherings in the last 18 months and I'm really grateful for how it has developed and grown. This is largely because of the women that attend. They are openhearted and warm and they truly get it. 

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At the beginning of the year I asked these women for their feedback - to help me to shape the future of Assembly because I felt like it was becoming an important feature in my life and in some of theirs and I want it to serve us all well. Assembly, above all the beautiful food, styling and workshops, is about giving women essential space to meet kindred creative spirits, to collaborate and learn. And the feedback was that they wanted more of that - more opportunities to truly connect - to really dig in and share. 

I don't know about you but my creativity needs midwifery. There is not a creative process that I've been through - whether launching a blog, a charity project, an online course, or any other idea that I haven't needed the advice, support and cheering on of other women. I think a lot of us realise we need this. We aren't made to work in silos, slogging it out on our own. We are made for creativity in community - to be around women who can help us birth our ideas by listening, advising, helping and sharing.  

All of this to say that I want to tell you what's next for Assembly!

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Assembly Sessions are smaller (25 people max), more intimate events for women really wanting to dig into their creative space and find supportive community. They are more frequent than our big, banquet all-day style Gatherings but give more space for sharing and getting to know other like-minded women. Sessions are where we dig in, Gatherings are where we celebrate. 

Assembly Sessions will run four times a year, will be stripped back but have the same beautiful Assembly identity of food and gathering in beautiful spaces and will be focused on both the inner work of being a creative and some of the practical skills that can see our pursuits flourish.  These are not business networks or formal forums - these are safe spaces for soulful creatives to bring out the best in each other.

I'm excited to tell you that our first Assembly Session will be happening next month! Together we are going to unpack the some of the things that hold us back in our creative lives - either in our professions, hobbies or other creative pursuits. This is such an important topic to shine a light on because every single one of us have fears and niggling voices of criticism in our heads that we allow to dictate how we show up in the world. This Session is going to help us manage this and unearth the tools we already have to be brave and wise.

Here are more details: 

SESSION 1
'FACE THE FEAR - DO IT ANYWAY' 

SATURDAY, 3RD MARCH  2pm - 6pm (late lunch included)
COST: £50

BLICK STUDIOS - MALONE ROAD, BELFAST
 

SESSION INCLUDES:

+ Lavish late lunch buffet banquet by the incredible Lorna, from Tacacucina.  

+ Breathing & body connection exercises with yoga teacher Oonagh Todd.

+ Reflective workshop led by me: Unpacking the voices that hold you back & taming the inner critic. Finding and connecting to your own true voice of wisdom. 

+ We will be led in reflection and visualisation exercises and we will have the opportunity to unpack our thoughts around these important areas of our creative lives through journalling and group discussion. Journals and other goodies provided!
 

THIS SESSION IS FOR YOU IF:

+ you want to feel more empowered in your creative journey. 

+ you are tired of letting fear and negative voices in your head hold you back from flourishing.

+ you feel stuck or unsure if your contributions are worth anything in the creative realm.

+ you want to reconnect to the calm wisdom that you have inside you.

+ you desire to make space for nourishing your body and soul.

+ you want to be inspired by & connected to other like-minded women.

If any of these things are true for you - this is your time!

I have a real feeling that this is the beginning of seeing women support and cheer each other on each other like never before - of being generous with each other, modelling a new way of being creative in community. I would so love you to be a part of this so if you have any questions, please let me know. Don't forget - spaces are limited (quite a few places have already gone!) so don't wait around - our last event sold out within 12 hours...

Can't wait to see you there!